LIONSROCK team attend a snake handling course at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary

LIONSROCK Staff Gets to Grips

LIONSROCK Embarked on a Snake Handling Workshop.


LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, a home to more than just our beloved big cats. Here, you can find a plethora of roaming wildlife from grazing Wildebeests, cautious Lechwe and towering Ostriches to the soaring birdlife that claim these skies. However, closer to the ground, LIONSROCK also houses some other creatures. These include snakes, scorpions, and spiders – Some harmless and some venomous. 

In a bid to care for all wildlife, large and small, crawling and slithering, LIONSROCK sought the expertise of the African Snakebite Institute to aid key staff members in the education and handling of our venomous inhabitants. 

The workshop, led by skilled instructor Sake van Wyk, consisted of both theoretical and practical segments. Each providing staff with valuable information. The theoretical part of the workshop passed down information regarding the identification of venomous and non-venomous snakes, spiders, and scorpions to the team. The African Snakebite Institute also took the opportunity to bust any myths that are commonly associated with these creatures to which the team intently took an interest in. 

Vet Christine Observing Snake Handling Training

The sombre mood quickly changed as the team entered the practical segment of the workshop – the handling of venomous snakes. The snake handlers from the African Snakebite Institute brought out venomous snakes that included Puffadders, Rinkhals and Cobras. The task ahead – Capture the snake using reptile tongs and place it into either a cylindrical tube or a transparent bucket with a securing lid. 

The instructors carefully demonstrated the manner in which a snake should be approached, handled and transferred – It could be described as a dance of which ensured the safety of both the serpent and the handler. 

The team’s confidence grew as each member had a chance to capture, handle and transfer the snake into the respective vessel before releasing it back onto the ground for the next person to perform the same capture method.  

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary’s animal caretaker, Pieter Meiring, expressed his insightful takeaway from the workshop, stating that he was glad to learn that there had finally been a steady supply of Boomslang anti-venom which had experienced a concerning shortage just three years prior. 

We are now more experienced to handle situations that will require us to catch snakes that are found within the sanctuary grounds and ensure their safe release. 

Pieter Meiring, Animal Caretaker

When asked about the training undertaken by the guidance of the African Snakebite Institute, Pieter said “I feel the instructors did great on both sides of theory and practical. They showcased the importance of how to treat snakes well. It was an added treat as I got to also work with a King Cobra for the first time”. 

The information gathered during the training will be utilised and passed down especially when guests visit the sanctuary and embark on foot during tours – ensuring the education and care of all wildlife. 

At the end of the training, the team had the rare opportunity to get even closer to a venomous snake – a spitting Cobra. This allowed staff to get a better look at key identifying marks on the snake in a controlled environment while being provided with more information. 

The LIONSROCK team involved in the training can now safely handle encounters with the focus being on a harmless capture and release of venomous snakes. The training undertaken is a testament to the welfare of all animals and creatures that call this vast landscape home. 

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